Steve Carnahan is no dreamer. When he decided to end a four-year hiatus and return as the wrestling coach at Oakland Mills, Carnahan knew he was in for a challenge.
The Scorpions were returning one of their younger teams, and with Wilde Lake and Hammond looming as serious contenders, Oakland Mills stood a good chance of being dethroned as county champs.
The Scorpions showed their youth by dropping their first four dual meets, albeit against a brutal schedule that included Francis Scott Key, 43-20, McDonough-Charles County, 42-17, and Riverdale Baptist, 53-12. Still, they showed improvement before Christmas, when they placed a respectable eighth -- only two places behind Hammond -- in the highly competitive Lackey tournament.
But things suddenly have taken an unfortunate turn. During the holiday break, 10 wrestlers quit the team. The resignations, which were announced gradually, shocked Carnahan.
He said the wrestlers cited a variety of reasons, such as after-school jobs or wanting to devote more time to studies. Carnahan said there were no coach-player conflicts.
"Earlier [before the resignations], we would have had a real shot [at another county title]. We're scrambling right now," Carnahan said.
The losses are devastating. They include returning 189-pounder Derrick Brooks and Jeff Herbert (145), Chad Fekel (160), Jake Daft (160-189) and Josh Daft (160-189), all junior varsity champions who were playing key roles for the Scorpions.
And the holes showed glaringly in a 39-21 defeat at Aberdeen on Wednesday. The Scorpions (0-5), forced to throw first-time wrestlers Joe Kim (160), Van Dang (171) and Ryan McNeil (189) at Aberdeen, dropped their last five matches, including three by pins.
The walkout has stung Carnahan. He coached Oakland Mills to 11 county titles in 14 seasons, before stepping down and watching Dan Ricker lead the Scorpions to four more league championships. Two months after replacing Ricker, Carnahan is faced with a crisis unlike anything he has ever encountered.
"I'm very disappointed. I don't want to call the kids quitters, but I don't know what other term to use," Carnahan said.
"It seems to be a sign of the times now. I'm having a hard time
relating to the lack of commitment I'm seeing from the youngsters. Before, no sacrifice was too great. Now, any sacrifice is too great. There is something very unfortunate about wasted potential."
'Cats could be a contender
Wilde Lake's boys basketball team has been known for failing to reach its potential. But this season might be a different story. The Wildecats began their league schedule with a 3-3 record, and they have plenty of reasons to be optimistic. They are averaging 73.0 points.
Senior 6-foot-5 forward Deon Wingfield leads the team with 12.5 rebounds per game. Wingfield also has snapped out of an offensive slump with 54 points in his past three games. Throw in 6-6 Ramone Myers (11.0 points, 7.5 rebounds), 6-4 Taronn Evans (17.0 points, 7.5 rebounds) and 6-3 point guard Seth Willingham (17.0 points, 7.0 assists), and the Wildecats have the components of a contender.
The Wildecats need to improve their defense and take better care of the ball. They are averaging 68.0 points and 22.0 turnovers. Willingham, who moved to point guard early in the season, could be the settling force Wilde Lake needs.
Glenelg off to best start ever
Glenelg's boys basketball team figured to improve on last year's 12-12 record, what with several key seniors returning. Still, the Gladiators' 7-1 start, their best ever, rates as a surprise. They are looking like the best team in coach Terry Coleman's 12 seasons.
Senior guard/forward Jason Beall has been superb. He leads the county with a 21.1-scoring average, which includes 50 percent shooting and 36 percent from three-point range. Beall also is averaging 5.0 rebounds. The senior backcourt of Scott Cline and Jamie Brinker has been equally strong. Cline is averaging 16.0 points, 4.0 assists and 4.5 steals. Brinker is averaging 6.0 points and 4.0 assists.
Glenelg is scoring 72.0 points a game and surrendering only 55.4.
Girls teams reviving
Two teams that spent last season camped near the bottom of the county girls basketball standings -- Wilde Lake and Atholton -- are showing signs of revival.
Wilde Lake has won its past three games to improve to 3-2, and the Wildecats are getting strong production out of four-year forward Tracy Stefan. She is averaging 12.0 points and 8.0 rebounds.
Atholton appears to be settling down after a 1-3 start. The Raiders have won three of their past four to pull even at 4-4 , and in the Central Maryland tournament 10 days ago, they trailed Damascus by four points with less than two minutes remaining before losing, 53-43.
Senior Allison Valentino, playing forward after three years at guard, is averaging 13.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists. Stephanie Van Deusen is averaging 8.8 points, and forward Robin McGraw is averaging 8.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 5.0 blocked shots.